The Hierarchy of Miso Soup

“It only takes five minutes to make miso soup.” True or False?

The answer is both. Here’s my hierarchy.

  1. You get a packet of dried powder and add hot water.
  2. You get two packets—one has dried ingredients and one squirts out paste. And you add hot water.
  3. You use miso that already has dashi (broth) added to it, make your miso soup on the stove.
  4. You use powdered dashi (comes in packets or a jar) and unadulterated miso.
  5. You use liquid store-bought dashi, much as you’d buy and use chicken broth.
  6. You make your own dashi. More about this later, as my dad would have said.
  7. You buy locally made miso.
  8. You make your own miso.

It’s comparable to making chicken soup, I suppose. I’ve started out with #3 but am hoping to move up in this hierarchy. I will never get to #8, but #7 is a distinct possibility as I have a source. And we’re not even talking about what you add to the miso soup here.

Variables? There are many. Broth is usually made from katsuoboshi (dried fish flakes)and konbu (a kind of seaweed). But it is possible to make a vegetarian broth. And miso? There are many kinds available. One of the secrets to a good miso soup is to take a few kinds of miso and mix them. In Japanese markets you will find a tub of mixed miso called “awasemiso” which gives you a light and dark miso neatly divided down the middle so you can decide your own proportions.

But you do need a broth. If your miso soup tastes bleh and you’ve just been using miso alone to make soup, that’s why. I recommend starting with dashi-iri  (dashi added in) miso that you can find at an Asian market.

Today’s miso soup: Ahem… I had leftover soup from yesterday and it was a long day at work. Do Japanese reheat leftover miso soup, or do they make it fresh each day? I have no idea. Tomorrow I’m off to the farmer’s market for more veggies. Meanwhile…. yakisoba for lunch!

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